Three Standing Figures
1945, cast c.1945–51
230 x 116 x 102 mm
Lent from a private collection 1994
Technique and condition
This sculpture comprises three standing figures in draped clothing arranged in a semi-circular formation on a rectangular base. It is made of plaster and was probably cast from an original clay model (fig.1). It is likely that the plaster figures were cast separately before being inserted into the base. This is supported by the existence of two clay slip figures held at the Henry Moore Foundation which have plugs at their feet. Marks on the base suggest that the plaster was smoothed with a spatula, possibly after the figures were inserted.
The surface of the sculpture does not appear to have been worked on after casting but some repairs and alterations are visible. For example, all three figures appear to have been broken at the ankle at some point, the repairs for which were made with new plaster (fig.2). Other repairs are particularly visible on the rear of the central and left-hand figures below the knees. Fine cracks can be seen in the necks of all three figures. Casting seams can be detected on the sides and heads of the figures but these have been removed with a fine file. Casting bubbles can also be seen in some areas (fig.3). Later applications of plaster on the front of the skirt and left hip are visible on the right-hand figure, but it is not known when these repairs and alterations were carried out.
How to citeLyndsey Morgan, 'Technique and Condition', March 2011, in Alice Correia, ‘Three Standing Figures 1945, cast c.1945–51 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, January 2014, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www
Origins and facture
In 1974 the art historian Kenneth Clark identified a series of drawings made between 1942 and 1946 in which the composition of Three Standing Figures was seemingly developed. He argued that although they clearly developed from the Shelter Drawings, in this new body of work Moore chose to isolate the figures from any specific context. While Clark acknowledged that he ‘did not know the exact sequence of these drawings’, he nonetheless proposed that Group of Draped Standing Figures 1942 (fig.2) was the ‘crucial drawing’, noting that the cluster of three women in the centre of the page not only anticipated Moore’s sculpture, but that ‘the two figures to the left [of the page] are almost exactly as they were to be used, five years later’.8
According to Clark, Moore was only able to solve the problem of how to relate each figure to the other by making three-dimensional terracotta models. It was at this point, Clark argued, that the role of the left-hand figure became clear: ‘she is the shock-absorber and the potential comforter, who gives the group, when realised in stone, its monumental character’.11 Clark claimed that the terracotta was made in 1947, which served to legitimise his argument that the model evolved from the sequence of drawings he identified, which he proposed culminated in a sheet of sketches presenting seven arrangements of three standing figures that is signed by the artist and dated 1946 (fig.4).12 The drawing on the bottom left of this page is closest to the final configuration, although the two women on the right do not possess the same stylised forms or periscopic faces of the figures in the final sculpture. However, Moore’s catalogue raisonné published in 1957 dated the terracotta to 1945 and two photographs of the sculpture were published in the journal Horizon in November 1945 (fig.5). This indicates that Studies of Three Standing Figures was made after the terracotta, demonstrating that Moore continued to experiment with the configuration of the figures in two dimensions even after working in three.
Air bubbles and casting seams on Tate’s plaster indicate that it was cast from a mould, rather than built up over an armature (fig.6). Each figure appears to have been cast separately before being mounted onto the rectangular cuboid base. After casting the figures were finished with files to remove unwanted spurs or seam ridges. The plaster was also coloured with a thin layer of pink-brown pigment suggesting that this version of the sculpture was regarded as an artwork in its own right rather than as a preliminary model. A photograph dated c.1951 shows Tate’s plaster on a shelf in Moore’s studio surrounded by other maquettes, which indicates that it was cast some time between 1945 and c.1951 (fig.7).
Context and interpretation
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Three Standing Figures 1945, cast c.1945–51 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, January 2014, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www